Connect with us

Politics & Elections

Challenging the status quo: The RI Political Cooperative answers questions



“Many of [our elected officials] call themselves Democrats because they have to, to win elections, but when they get into office, they actually govern a lot like Republicans…”

“A really startling number of our elected officials in Rhode Island are extremely right wing,” said Joshua Kestin, moderating a forum featuring three candidates running with the support of the Rhode Island Political Cooperative. “Many of them call themselves Democrats because they have to, to win elections, but when they get into office, they actually govern a lot like Republicans. And the reason they are able to get away with all of this is because they are all supported by the political establishment, basically a small, insular clique of corrupt politicians in the state who control everything from how the money is saved to where the money goes and the kind of bills going on in the General Assembly.”

To challenge this power, you need to win a lot of seats in the General Assembly, “and that’s really the central idea motivating the Rhode Island Political Cooperative,” said Kestin.

Kestin had three members of the Rhode Island Political Cooperative with him at the Rochambeau Library in Providence on Thursday evening, to introduce themselves and the Cooperative to the public. The three candidates answered questions from attendees for over an hour.

The three candidates are all challenging incumbant Democrats:

  • Tiara Mack, is challenging Senator Harold Metts (Democrat, District 6, Providence);
  • Cynthia Mendes, is challenging Senator William Conley Jr (Democrat, District 18, East Providence); and
  • Michelle McGaw, is challenging Representative Dennis Canario (Democrat, District 71, Portsmouth, Tiverton, Little Compton).

Below is all the video, sarting with Kestin’s introduction:

Can you help Uprise RI?

Funding for our reporting relies on the generosity of readers like you. Our independence allows us to write stories that hold RI state and local government officials accountable. All of our stories are free and available to everyone. But your support is essential to keeping Steve and Will on the beat, covering the costs of reporting many stories in a single day. If you are able to, please support Uprise RI. Every contribution, big or small is so valuable to us. You provide the motivation and financial support to keep doing what we do. Thank you.

Become a Patron!
Opens in a new tab - you won't lose you place

The three candidates introduced themselves:

Michelle McGaw:

Tiara Mack:

Cynthia Mendes:

The rest of the forum was devoted to questions from attendees:

To Michelle McGaw: What are the current rules in the Rhode Island House of Representatives and what are the changes you are proposing?

Is Speaker Nicholas Mattiello (Democrat, District 15, Cranston) being challenged by a progressive Democrat in the primary?

What does it mean to be part of the Rhode Island Political Cooperative? Is there a shared platform? A shared ideology? What happens when you are elected and up against this huge power block?

The main reason the Democratic Party has control over the entire political system is that they have institutions backing them – there are these patronage relationships, including labor relationships that line up behind leadership no matter what. The Rhode Island political Cooperative doesn’t have these connections, so how are planning to establish yourselves in communities?

To Cynthia Mendes: You mentioned that the General Assembly has already started to react to the pressure being brought to bear by the Rhode Island Political Cooperative. Can you talk a little about what that looks like?

To Cynthia Mendes: Can you talk a little about your background?

What does education reform look like, especially among struggling communities?

What are the problems particular to your districts, that are not currently being addressed by the General Assembly?

In the United States education is typically paid for through property taxes, meaning wealthy communities have better funded education systems. How does the Rhode Island Political Cooperative plan to deal with this issue?

You have 17 candidates now, and plan to add more before the election cycle begins. What is the big picture for your organization?

Is the Rhode Island Political Cooperative a 501(c)3 a 501(c)4 or a for profit operation?

To Cynthia Mendes: What are your plans and specific goals for your district?

There’s lots of good legislation at the General Assembly that stalls and dies every year. Will passing this legislation be a priority?

A question on cannabis, both medicinal and recreational.

A question on a recent House bill to ban the sale of animal furs, and how do you think the bill will affect people in your communities?

What are the Rhode Island Political Cooperatives policies regarding clean drinking water?

The infrastructure in our state is crumbling. What can be done?

What is the Rhode Island Political Cooperative’s view on privatization?

A question about tax policy and how can we tax the rich:

Outside of campaign finance, in various and assorted types of policies, what does accountability look like?

Rhode Island has low voter turnout. How do you get people to the polls?

Joshua Kestin wraps up the forum:

About the Author

Steve Ahlquist is Uprise RI's co-founder and lead reporter. He has covered human rights, social justice, progressive politics and environmental news for nearly a decade.